ModernityBlog

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Posts Tagged ‘Tibet

Tibet And Language.

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China, like many colonial powers and dictators, is forcing its language on those it rules over, but some Tibetans have had enough, according to Free Tibet:

“The protests are sparked by Chinese educational reforms which stipulate that all subjects will be taught in Chinese and all textbooks will be in Chinese.These reforms have already been implemented in other areas across the Tibet Autonomous Region, including in primary schools.”

Written by modernityblog

22/10/2010 at 03:12

Fred On Tibet And Other Things.

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Sadly, Fred Halliday passed away.

Now I am not really into obituaries (writing them that is) but Fred made an informed contribution to debate on international topics for decades, whilst you might not always agree with his sentiments in all aspects one could not deny that he was a thoughtful and considered individual.

Looking through the long list of his articles at Open Democracy I came across this one on Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure.

Fred makes some very lucid points concerning Tibet:

Lhasa in the world

For all the differences of region and political context, a comparable process was taking place at that time over Tibet, where aspirations to independence were crushed as the forces of the victorious Chinese revolution of 1949 subordinated and incorporated the territory into the "People's Republic of China".

Here, much of the energetic debate about Tibet's "historical status" – whether (as Tibetan nationalists and their supporters claim) it was an independent state before China occupied it in 1950-51 or whether it is (in Chinese nationalist terminology) an "inalienable part" of historic China – is based on a dubious premise. For "history" and its associations is not the unarguable source of judgment that both sides see it as.

Even if Tibet had been an integral part of China for centuries, this would not gainsay its contemporary right – as a territory with a clearly distinct language and culture, and with several decades of de facto and modern sovereignty before 1950 – from claiming independence. After all, Ireland was long ruled by England, Norway by Sweden, and Finland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries by Russia, without this contradicting their right to independence in the 20th century.

It is not essential to this line of argument, but worth saying anyway, that even on historical grounds the Tibetans have as good or better case for independence as these other lands (see Donald S Lopez Jr, "How to think about Tibet", 31 March 2008). Chinese armies have certainly occupied Tibet on various occasions in past centuries, as English armies occupied much of France. But from the mid-18th century, Tibet was in practice independent under its Dalai Lama rulers based in their capital, Lhasa. The few European travellers who reached this "forbidden city" in the 1840s (such as the French travelling priests, Père Huc and Père Gabet), the Chinese presence was purely formal, the two ambans (Beijing officials) posted there having no more power than, say, a British high commissioner has in independent Australia or India.”

Update 1: This is a good article on Fred from the World People’s Blog.

Update 2: Norm on Fred.

Update 3: One Big Unhappy Family at the New York Review of Books.

Update 4: Not forgetting The Jihadism of Fools By Fred Halliday:

“OVER the last few years, and especially since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there have been indications across the world of a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the “anti-imperialist” left on the other. Leaving aside widespread, if usually unarticulated, sympathy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, justified on the grounds that “the Americans deserved it,” we have seen since 2003 an overt coincidence of policies, with considerable support for the Iraqi “resistance,” which includes strong Islamist elements, and, more recently and even more explicitly, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the Middle East itself, and on parts of the European far left, an overt alliance with Islamists has been established, going back at least to the mass demonstrations in early 2003 that preceded the Iraq War, but also including a convergence of slogans on Palestine—supporting suicide bombings and denying the legitimacy of the Israeli state. Last year, for example, radical Basque demonstrators were preceded by a militant waving a Hezbollah flag. Moreover, since most of those who oppose the U.S. action in Iraq of 2003 also opposed the war in Afghanistan in 2001, this leads, whether clearly recognized or not, to support for the anti-Western Taliban, armed groups now active across that country.

At the same time, some far left-wing politicians in Europe have sought, on issues of “anti-imperialism” and of social exclusion within the West, to find common cause with representatives of Islamist parties. An example of this is the welcome given by the British left, including the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to the Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. More important, of course, and separate from support for Islamist guerrilla groups, has been alignment at the state level: Iran, for example, has received increasing support from Venezuela. Hugo Chávez has been to Tehran no less than five times. This partnership has been made all the easier by the shift noticeable over the past two decades whereby solidarity based, at least formally, on class or socialist grounds has been replaced by identity politics as the basis for political activism. Inchoately perhaps, a new international united front is being created. ”

Update 5: Jeff Weintraub take on the above.

Update 6: Fred on the Taliban.

Update 7: Jeff Weintraub and Norm remind us of an interview with Fred on Internationalism and universal rights.

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27/04/2010 at 02:01

Qinghai Earthquake.

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The Torygraph has more:

“More than 400 people were killed and 10,000 injured when a series of strong earthquakes struck the mountainous Tibetan Plateau in south-west China, collapsing schools, offices and thousands of mud-wall houses.

State television showed aircraft being loaded with the first emergency aid deliveries that will include 5,000 tents, 50,000 cotton coats and 50,000 quilts to protect victims against near-freezing temperatures and strong winds that whip across the plateau.

Rescuers said that it could take some time to reach stricken areas, which are a 12 hour drive from the provincial capital of Xining along poor roads, some of which have been damaged by landslides.

The remoteness of the area, which is home to about 100,000 mostly ethnic Tibetan herders and farmers, meant that modern equipment, including earth movers and medical facilities, were also in desperately short supply.”

Update 1: The Beeb has coverage and a handy map:

Update 2: Time magazine has an informative article:

“On a good day, it takes 12 hours by bus to get to Yushu from the provincial capital, Xining, which is itself about a 1,000-mile drive from the national capital of Beijing. As you climb south and west across the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, urban sprawl cedes to empty steppe. Just north of Tibet, the road opens into a small town tucked in a river valley. Its main street is lined with vendors selling yak butter and tea; its low, brown hills are lined with rows of brightly colored courtyard homes. Those homes — and the town — now lie in ruin.

There is another factor at work here. Yushu sits at what was the edge of the old Chinese empire, and to this day its predominant population is not Han, the ethnic group that rules the new China, but Tibetan. Indeed, the name Yushu, or “Jade Tree,” is not what the locals use, beautiful as it is. Yushu is Mandarin, the language of the bureaucrats of Beijing. The town uses Jyekundo, which is Tibetan — the language of the exiled Dalai Lama, a bête noire of the Chinese government. Dominating a large square in Yushu was a spectacular statue not of some cultural hero from the broad river plains, crowded cities or farmlands further east but of the great Gesar, a legendary king of the pastoral peoples of Tibet and Mongolia. No one knows if it survived the quake.”

Update 3: More from the Beeb:

“Thousands of Tibetan monks using pickaxes, shovels and their bare hands have been helping rescue teams and local people dig survivors from the rubble.

“There are people in here, we have got to find them,” one monk in Jiegu told the AFP news agency.

At a foothill under the main monastery of Jiegu township, monks chanted Tibetan Buddhist mantras in front of piles of dead, Reuters news agency reports.

Some helped residents look for kin among what appeared to be hundreds of bodies, collected on a covered platform, the agency says.

“I’d say we’ve collected a thousand or more bodies here,” said Lopu, a monk in maroon robes. “Some we found ourselves, some were sent to us.”

“Many of the bodies you see here don’t have families or their families haven’t come looking for them, so it’s our job to take good care of them.”

Another monk told the AFP news agency he had come from the Ganzi region of neighbouring Sichuan province to set up a food station.

“Around 28 monasteries have sent people to help. We will be bringing in more and more supplies later today,” he said.
A distraught ethnic Tibetan woman who gave her name as Sonaman said she had “lost everything”.
Wandering the streets with her four-year-old nephew tucked under her coat, Sonaman, 52, said that her mother, father and sister had died.

“My house has been destroyed,” she told AFP. “It’s been flattened. My family lost 10 people. We have nothing. We have nothing to eat.”

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14/04/2010 at 14:59

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Protest Against China, Get Executed.

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No free media, a massive state security apparatus and diktats direct from Beijing make Tibet an inhospitable place for the Tibetans, and the craven behaviour of the British FCO doesn’t make it any easier, the Guardian reports on the latest executions by the Chinese’s dictatorship:

“A foreign ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, said two men had been put to death, and declined to provide further details. Overseas Tibetan groups have identified the dead as Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak.

Lobsang Gyaltsen was sentenced to death this year for an arson attack that killed a shop owner in Lhasa, according to a report at the time by Xinhua news agency. Loyak was handed the same penalty for starting a blaze at a motorcycle shop that killed five people, the agency said.

The US-funded Radio Free Asia said Lobsang Gyaltsen was allowed a visit by his mother before he was executed. “I have nothing to say, except please take good care of my child and send him to school,” he was quoted as telling her.

There has been no confirmation of two other executions reported last Thursday by the campaign group Free Tibet.

The British Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis condemned the executions. “We respect China’s right to bring those responsible for the violence in Tibet last year to justice.

“But the UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and we have consistently raised our concerns about lack of due process in these cases in particular,” he said.”

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27/10/2009 at 23:05

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Tibetans and Uighurs.

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Australia’s Green Left had an article last year which provides some background to the recent conflicts in Xinjiang:

“Meanwhile, on March 23 and 24 more 1000 people from the Uighur nationality demonstrated in the city of Khotan in the south of the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. The protests were sparked by the killing in police custody of Uighur businessperson Mutallip Hajim and restrictions on women wearing Islamic headscarves.

The Uighurs, along with most of the non-Han nationalities in Xinjiang, are Muslim. More than 500 Uighurs have been detained by Chinese authorities who blamed the Khotan protests on the “three evil forces” of seperatism, terrorism and religious extremism.

The grievances fuelling both Tibetan and Uighur opposition to Chinese rule are broadly similar. In both cases, while incorporation into the People’s Republic of China in the decade following the 1949 revolution brought economic development and the elimination of oppressive pre-capitalist class relations, this was offset by cultural and religious persecution and discrimination vis-a-vis Han Chinese, reflected in significantly lower indicators in education, health and employment.

In both Tibet and Xinjiang, the market-driven economic reforms of the 1980s and ’90s that lead to the integration of China into the global capitalist economy increased national tensions. The boom in Chinese manufacturing has been largely concentrated in the coastal provinces of the east, with Xinjiang and Tibet confined to being sources of raw materials.

Furthermore, the sparsely populated autonomous regions have become destinations for Han Chinese transmigration. The discrimination and educational disadvantage faced by the local population has meant that, in both Xinjiang and Tibet, the rapidly growing modern sector of the economy and the work force is dominated by transmigrants.”

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09/07/2009 at 01:44